Muscle Action vs. Muscle Function

Muscle Action vs. Muscle Function

Training the glute med with banded crab walks and a myriad of hip abduction moments may be great to improve the ‘mind muscle’ connection or simply drive a hypertrophy outcome. However, if you desire to have hips that can withstand squatting and deadlift intensity without dumping into knee valgus you will at some point have to ditch the mini band and actually learn to control the relative positions of your femur and pelvis in standing postures against heavy external loads (gravity and barbells). The same way you wouldn’t program crunches to improve core stability and bracing for squats and deads.

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Improve Hamstring Strength - GHD Case Study

Improve Hamstring Strength - GHD Case Study

We introduced a banded ‘reach’ instead of the external load to increase the ability to keep the rib cage back and down (retracted) through serratus anterior engagement. This doubles as an easy way to reduce the ability of the lats to extend the spine, as the serratus anterior directly opposes the lats ability to extend the lower back (read a surplus of information on this topic by S+C GOAT - Eric Cressey). We cued an exhale at the top of the movement to draw the ribs down and pelvis up into relative posterior pelvic tilt through oblique recruitment further reinforcing the ability to control the desire to extend the system and take tension off the hamstrings. This culminated in a very tough set of 5 reps with significantly increased hamstring tension.

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Relative Stiffness

Relative Stiffness

When we actively engage serratus anterior in core/ flexion based drills we effectively shut down the involvement of it’s antagonist muscles, of most note in this example the latissimus dorsi. This increased stiffness created by the serratus anterior effectively shuts down the lats ability to extend the lower back and drive the rib cage anteriorly. This is because the serratus anterior’s function is to shift the rib cage BACK and DOWN relative to the scapluae, the direct opposite effect the lat has on the rib cage of FORWARD and UP (extension of the lumbar spine and lower thoracic spine).

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Finding the Right Hip-Position in the Sumo Deadlift – Lower Isn’t Always Better - JP Cauchi

Finding the Right Hip-Position in the Sumo Deadlift – Lower Isn’t Always Better - JP Cauchi

This begs the question, what is the best position to have your hips? The trade-off is quite basic to wrap our heads around. The lower the hips and closer they are to the bar, the better because there is less load through the back. However, the closer they get also reduces our force-generating ability. We need to find a position that gets us the best of both worlds. Usually this position is a lot higher than we want to believe because we’re used to seeing.

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